In the simplest terms, anaplasia is used to describe a cell that has lost many of its defining characteristics or in other words has become undifferentiated. But what does that mean when it comes to cancer cells? What does it mean for anaplasia cells to be found inside a tumor? What is anaplasia? Are anaplastic cells inherently bad? GentleCure is here to help you understand what it means when cells become anaplasia in nature and more.
Anaplasia, which comes from the Greek words ana (backwards) + plasis (formation), means that a cell is growing in reverse. It’s not that it’s shrinking, but rather that the cell is losing more and more of its function because of the loss of information. Healthy cells, which are designed to serve specific functions, become more specialized as they divide. When a cell instead reverts to a more stem-cell-like state and its function distorts into something else, it has become a cell with anaplasia. What causes a cell to display anaplasia is not exactly known. However, in cases of thyroid cancer, changes to two specific parts of the cells have been discovered that control cell growth, which could be likely causes.
Anaplasia and Cancer Cells
But what is anaplasia in relation to cancer? In normal cells, growth is strictly controlled in relation to other cells. The cells communicate with each other; they grow only as wide as to touch neighboring cells. Cell divisions are strictly controlled. Once a cell develops anaplasia, all of those rules go out of the window. Anaplasia cells do not communicate with the surrounding cells. They grow larger and replicate at a much more rapid rate, while remaining only loosely connected to the surrounding cells. As these cells continue this unchecked replication, they produce more cells with anaplasia, which grow, and replicate.
This is how a malignant tumor is created, otherwise known as cancer cells. As malignant tumors spread through metastasis, they become cancerous (i.e., they invade other sites in the body.) In many cases, the difference between a malignant tumor and a benign tumor is which tumor has anaplasia cells in it. Benign tumors rarely, if ever, have anaplasia cells in them. However, in rare cases their cells can lose differential, therefore becoming anaplasia.
Examples of Anaplasia in Tumors
One example of the difference between anaplasia in tumors vs. not being present is leiomyosarcoma and leiomyoma. Both are smooth muscle tumors and are identical in nature in many ways. The key difference is that the leiomyoma cells maintain their definition, remaining a benign tumor. However, once the cells lose those characteristics, it becomes leiomyosarcoma, which is a malignant tumor that can spread through the body.
Two more examples are adenomas andadenocarcinoma, which are glandular tumors. For many people with an adenoma, or a benign glandular tumors, there’s no risk of the tumors becoming malignant. However, for some people with an adenoma, or even those without an adenoma, a mutation can occur in the cells that will cause them to become less differentiated, causing the benign tumors to become the cancerous adenocarcinoma.
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